© 2007 MLB Advanced Media, L.P. All rights reserved.
04/08/07 8:28 PM ET
Bonds, Giants not ready to panic
Slugger's renewed health a bright spot in disappointing week
By Barry M. Bloom / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It was the week that was for Barry Bonds and the 2007 edition of the Giants. "First-week blues at AT&T Park," said Giants general manager Brian Sabean on Sunday before his team finished its first homestand with a 10-4 loss to the Dodgers and a 1-5 record. "We've seen that before." The hitters didn't hit enough. The pitchers didn't pitch enough. And the fielders didn't field enough. But otherwise the week was just fine. There were the usual complaints from the players about the cold weather and how the sod hasn't yet securely anchored to the field. But no one was really using that as an excuse for the Giants opening with five losses in their first six games for the first time since 1980. There was a new manager and a new No. 1 starter, but the same old story for a team that hasn't made the playoffs since 2003. "That's not the reason why we're losing," Bonds said. "Hey, we're 1-5. It'll straighten itself out." It was a week in which a $126 million, 28-year-old starter lost twice, unable to get his first National League win, and a $20 million, 42-year-old left fielder began to put a stamp on the season in which he's pursuing Hank Aaron for Major League Baseball's all-time home run lead. Bonds had three RBIs and four hits, including one of the club's two homers. He also looked spry on the basepaths and in left field despite the ever-shifting turf. At 735 homers, Bonds is 20 behind Aaron's 755. With 2,845 hits, he's 155 short of 3,000. And with 1,933 RBIs, he's just 67 shy of 2,000. "That's the only thing I'm mad about," said Bonds, who's hitting .222 (4-for-18). "I should have had more hits." Barry Zito had bookend starts on glistening afternoons by the bay, losing the season opener Tuesday, 7-0, to the Padres, and the homestand closer to the Dodgers, allowing 11 runs and 13 hits in the process. He left on an eight-game road trip to San Diego, Pittsburgh and Colorado with an 8.18 earned run average and 102 career wins, all of them in Oakland, where he won the Cy Young Award five years ago. Bonds played through tight hamstrings in both legs, claiming to have felt better after taking off Saturday afternoon's 4-1 loss to the Dodgers. "I'm still a little sore," Bonds said before Sunday's game. "But nowhere near as bad as I was the other day." The lefty-swinging Bonds even started pulling the ball Sunday. His homer, coming Wednesday night in the first inning off Padres right-hander Chris Young, was to left-center. Two other big flies this week were also off the end of his bat and were turned into long outs at the left-field fence. But after Rich Aurilia doubled with one out in the first inning, Bonds sized up new Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf and skied a full-count pitch that landed with a thud off the green metallic lip in front of Levi's Landing, some 24 feet above right field, but 10 feet foul. He then crushed a liner off the same wall to score Aurilia, but it was hit so hard Matt Kemp quickly played the carom and Bonds had to backtrack into first base with a single. Doesn't that exemplify the first homestand? Bonds, who is running free from the agony of his trifecta of 2005 knee operations, hitting the ball so hard that he couldn't scamper into second base with a double? Bruce Bochy, who jumped ship in San Diego after 12 seasons to take over a team that finished 76-85 last year under the deposed Felipe Alou, had little to wax eloquent about after his first San Francisco week aside from the play of his near ancient left fielder. "He's made a couple of good plays in the outfield," said Bochy, a former catcher, who was ejected from his first game as Giants manager in the ninth inning Sunday. "He's running out there. He stole a base. He's playing great baseball. And he couldn't be better to deal with. He's got a great sense of humor. I was never much of hitter, but I was done at 32, 33. I can't believe he's still doing what he's doing at nearly 43." Bonds hit seven Spring Training homers, including two last Sunday against the A's at Oakland, leading many to believe that it might not take as long as initially expected to smack the 21 he still needs to pass Aaron. Bonds, though, tried to cool that notion earlier in the week when he said it was way too early for the countdown to begin. Come back at 750, he said. Last year, Bonds sounded far more confident when he came into the season needing only seven to pass Babe Ruth and go into second place with 715 homers. It took him nearly two months, finally accomplishing the feat on May 28. He finished with 26. "Yeah, that was a closer number than 21 or 22," Bonds said with a laugh. "I only had to hit seven. What was I at, 708 at the time? In the course of six months, I can hit two one month, one the next, then one, one, one. I just liked those odds better. That's how that was." And this is how it is: It's only the third time since the Giants left New York for San Francisco in 1957 that they've opened the season by losing five of their first six games. They scored 14 runs and allowed 31. "It's a fact of life," Sabean said about the week that was. "There's no panic. You know what the [NL West] is all about. There are no runaway teams. You just have to ride through it."
Barry M. Bloom is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.